Newman’s Day, U. drinking tradition discouraged by Paul Newman, may still exist on campusand Sarah Warman Hirschfield | Apr 23, 2018
On April 24, some University students will partake in a decades-old tradition, “Newman’s Day,” in which participants drink 24 beers in 24 hours.
The tradition, especially popular at the University, comes from an apocryphal quote attributed to actor Paul Newman: “24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not.”
“All my friends are celebrating," said Anyssa Chebbi ’18, who does not drink. Last year, her friends bought a 24-pack of beer and drank it throughout the course of the day.
“It’s going to be nice outside,” she said, adding that she expects they will celebrate in a courtyard near their dorm.
Sources revealed that some eating clubs are set to celebrate the event, providing beer for those who wish to partake, although none of the eating club officers have officially verified this.
Hannah Paynter ’19, president of Cloister Inn, wrote in an email that her eating club “does not endorse or condone Newman’s Day in any way.”
Tower Club and Charter Club declined to comment. All other eating clubs did not respond to request for comment.
Newman’s Day celebrations at the University date back more than a decade.
Although the tradition started at Bates College in the 1970s, the earliest mentions of Newman’s Day in The Daily Princetonian are found in an article from 2002, detailing student and faculty reactions to the festivities. One student, Pete Cioni ’04, recalled a student in the previous year who “stood up, turned to face his seat and urinated on it for ‘nearly a minute’” before turning around and sitting “in his own mess” in class. Colonial Club hosted the band The Holy Smokes, a performance which included setting a guitar on fire.
In an attempt to curb participation in this drinking game, the student-run Alcohol Coalition Committee began multiple initiatives in the spring of 2002. The initiatives carried over to the following semester when 500 posters with images of stomach pumps on them were posted around the school on Nov. 4.
Newman’s Day celebrations had become so notorious among the local police department and the Department of Public Safety that borough police lieutenant Dennis McManimon expressed surprise when the police department’s only actions on Newman’s Day in 2004 were “to cite two students who were caught with beer on the sidewalk.”
In 2004, Paul Newman’s attorney wrote a letter to the University stating that the actor was “disturbed by the use of his name in conjunction with this alcohol-related event” and that he “would like to bring an end to this tradition.”
Newman noted that the tradition was “particularly abhorrent” in light of his son Scott’s drug overdose death in 1978. His son struggled with alcoholism.
Newman also took out a full-page ad in the ‘Prince’ discouraging students from drinking.
Following Newman’s plea, the University took steps to limit Newman’s Day festivities. The following week, Public Safety officers confiscated around 400 Newman’s Day shirts, which read, “If found, please return to McCosh Health Center” and the quote, “24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not.”
A group of students had paid $2,000 for the shirts and planned on selling them. Later, the University returned the shirts to the students.
Dean of Undergraduate Studies Kathleen Deignan justified the confiscation of the shirts, citing “concern that the T-shirts were designed to be used as paraphernalia for a dangerous drinking activity that has led to the hospitalization of students in the past.”
After 2004, when Newman wrote a letter to the University, celebration festivities died down. The following year, the Student Health Advisory Board launched a campaign called “Livesmart” to promote responsible drinking habits among students for Newman’s Day. SHAB handed out orange wristbands in Frist Campus Center and flyers explaining how to be smart about drinking.
The next year, residential college deans sent an email to students stating, “Newman’s Day is not a longstanding Princeton tradition, and you are risking a permanent disciplinary record if you participate.” This did not stop many students.
“I’m an extremely intelligent and academic person involved in many activities,” said one sophomore, who attended three classes during the celebration, “but there are certain times when you’ve just got to be a meathead.”
Some students, holding cans of beer, played whistleball in the courtyard of 1903 Hall. Others sold Newman’s Day shirts.
By 2007, Newman’s Day on campus was dying down. The ‘Prince’ reported that only one student got in trouble for having an open container of alcohol.
Many students interviewed for this article said they did not know about Newman’s Day, or if they did, did not know anyone celebrating it on campus — suggesting that the University’s efforts to stop the event have been partly successful.